Why IBM Power Systems are a superior investment to Oracle SPARC Solaris and Exadata systems
The myth that an investment in either SPARC Solaris or Exadata systems is better than an investment in IBM Power Systems has been around for a long time. It’s becoming a tougher argument to make now, though, given the virtual disappearance of SPARC Solaris systems from the market. The case for Exadata remains open for debate.
There are numerous factors that go into clients’ infrastructure buying decisions. I believe that IBM Power Systems is ultimately a more open, flexible and future-oriented platform than either Oracle SPARC Solaris or Exadata, and I hope this discussion will help you reach the same conclusion.
Evaluating the investments All organizations develop short- and long-term plans to foster their growth, profitability and longevity. Companies make strategic investments in many different areas to help ensure those plans succeed, and technology plays a critical role in those plans. Most companies today are considering investments in:
- Cloud, hybrid cloud and multicloud
- SAP HANA • AI • Big data and analytics
- Open source
One factor that sets IBM Power Systems apart from Oracle SPARC Solaris and Exadata is its ability to incorporate these cutting-edge technologies into the solutions that clients are investing in today. Let’s take a closer look at each platform.
Many years ago, SPARC Solaris was a formidable competitor in the marketplace that had a sizeable share of the Unix market. Unfortunately, after Oracle acquired them in 2010, they began a slow decline in the market. Today SPARC Solaris lacks many of the fundamental elements that make a platform viable and worthy of investment. They have either limited or no capability in the following areas:
- Development teams
- ISV ecosystem
- Cloud platform
- Open source database support (Mongo DB, Enterprise DB, Redis) • SAP HANA
- AI environments (Caffe, Theano, Torch/PyTorch, Tensorflow)
Even if Oracle does support Solaris until 2034 and Fujitsu finds a way to enhance the SPARC architecture, it will have little impact absent what’s required to keep a platform viable.
Exadata is a scale-out, x86-based appliance running Oracle Linux. It’s designed to run Oracle databases and, more specifically, scan-oriented data warehouse query workloads. It wasn’t designed for online transaction processing (OLTP) workloads, and most of the features that Oracle considers its “secret sauce” have minimal or no benefit for these workloads.
Exadata is strategic to Oracle because it’s the hardware underpinning of the Oracle database on its public cloud offering, its Oracle Cloud At Customer offering and solutions a customer can buy to run Oracle workloads on premises.
Here are some considerations:
Vendor lock-in. When organizations invest in an Exadata solution, the click they hear is their company being locked into an environment controlled 100% by Oracle. This is designed to maximize Oracle’s software license revenue. While the hardware may look cheaper than Power initially, the overall TCO when you add in software licensing and maintenance can be much higher.
Processor performance. Exadata relies on Intel for its hardware roadmap. Qualified Performance Data (QPI) data from IDC has shown that over a 7-year period, IBM Power Systems per-core performance increased by 121% over three generations while Intel’s per-core performance only improved by 24% over five generations of systems.
Storage options. Storage on Exadata is not accessible by anything outside the Exadata system without using network-based protocols like NFS. There’s also no option to access SAN based storage and no Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) option. This can be a problem for any client needing to use nonOracle data or applications.
Cost. Exadata is expensive. Based on the Exadata pricing guide and Oracle technology price list, as of April 2, 2019, hardware represents about 3% of the Total Cost of Acquisition (TCA) of an Exadata system, and the other 97% covers the cost of software licenses and maintenance.
Additional investment required. Exadata is often positioned by Oracle as the solution, but all Exadata systems need other x86 or IBM Power Systems to run the applications. Even though Exadata was designed specifically to run Oracle databases, some of Oracle’s largest and most important enterprise deployments run on Power Systems running AIX, not Exadata.
IBM Power Systems The roadmaps for IBM Power Systems hardware and operating systems are the strongest and most dependable in the industry today. Power is in its 9th generation, and POWER10 is on the way. This brand has consistently delivered on its commitments and is supported by a strong development team.
Moreover, cloud, SAP HANA, AI, big data analytics, Linux and open source are all ingrained in the Power architecture.
Other points to consider:
- Oracle’s installed base on Power Systems running AIX is very large and loyal and represents a critical revenue stream to Oracle.
- For the past 15 years, Oracle has released all database versions for Power, Exadata and x86 within weeks of each other.
- For the 12th consecutive year, IBM Power Systems has achieved the highest server reliability rankings when compared to all x86 servers according to ITIC’s 2020 Global Server Hardware and Server OS Reliability survey.
- That same ITIC report found that security and data breaches are now the top cause of downtime. As of this writing, the ITIC report did not show any security breaches for PowerVM.
Given all these factors, Power will continue to be the best technology investment, not only for Oracle databases, but for all mission-critical applications companies run today and in the future.
Which is the better investment, and why?
When clients are considering new technology investments, three of their most common concerns are:
- Does this technology align with our strategic direction?
- Does it integrate well with what we have today?
- Is it reliable?
Given strong interest in cloud, AI, SAP HANA, big data analytics, Linux and open source today, I believe IBM Power Systems are a better investment than either Oracle SPARC Solaris or Exadata.
While existing SPARC Solaris customers may continue to invest in Oracle systems when they need replacement product or extra capacity while they plan a migration to another platform, Power is a better investment for those looking toward a more open future. That said, a migration to Power running AIX is a very viable option for clients that want to keep a UNIX environment as part of their infrastructure.
An investment in Exadata requires a fundamental commitment to the Oracle database, and many clients are trying to migrate away from that because of high cost, dissatisfaction with Oracle’s support and a desire to take advantage of many excellent open source alternatives.
Unlike Exadata on-premises or cloud solutions where deployment options are limited and software license costs are high, IBM Power Systems provides an open architecture allowing clients to choose how and what to deploy in their data centers. Power also offers the best open infrastructure for running mission-critical workloads including Oracle, SAP HANA, SAS, Db2 and the applications that drive them, something you can’t do on Exadata because it only runs Oracle databases.
When Oracle Cloud is part of the client’s cloud strategy, the client gets Exadata by default, and it seems unlikely that AWS, Google and others will adopt this technology. Power, on the other hand, is available in the IBM public cloud as well as Google Cloud and SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud.
Power Systems: The better choice
IBM Power Systems is better aligned with the technology investments companies need to make today than either Oracle SPARC Solaris or Exadata. The former is no longer being developed and the latter is a closed, proprietary environment that locks clients into an Oracle solution that can only run Oracle databases and the Oracle Cloud.
As clients evaluate different technologies based on how well they align to their strategic initiatives and integrate with their existing infrastructure, most will find IBM Power Systems a superior option that will help them achieve a better ROI faster.
IBM Systems Lab Services has a team of highly experienced consultants ready to help you migrate from Oracle SPARC Solaris or Exadata to IBM Power Systems and get the most out of your IBM Power Systems investments. Reach out today if you have questions or are looking for support.
This article was authored by Skip Garvin, Senior Technical Solutions Manager in IBM Systems Lab Services. Skip can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A special thanks to Petra Buehrer, Ralf Schmidt-Dannert and Francois Martin for their contributions.